PICTURE THIS: Episode 8. CLIENT SATISFACTION VS. PERSONAL SATISFACTION


Today our discussion has to do with something every photographer needs to address and the sooner the better – Client satisfaction or personal satisfaction, which do you value most?

Do you prefer that your client be more satisfied with your job than you are or vice versa?  Let me share a personal experience from a job we did for a client. We covered his wedding in November. He flew in from Canada where he is based two weeks to the wedding date. It was then I met him for the first time. We had to do a pre-wedding shoot quickly, and when I delivered the pictures he expressed some dissatisfaction with the editing. This [according to him] was because we did not remove some sideburns, some backgrounds and that he was expecting more [graphic] editing than we did.

I explained to him that yes, we can do that; but the type of editing we do is minimalistic, noting that what he wanted us to do with Photoshop could cost a lot more. But he still insisted. True, he had paid a reasonable amount as fees (equivalent to about $2200.00) for his wedding coverage.

This was a rare scenario, because I wasn’t accustomed to this type of editing (request from clients). So it begged the question, ‘should I please him or should I insist on what I want?’

I eventually had to re-edit all the pictures and it took longer than we planned. So we delivered the pictures a few days before the wedding. I felt satisfied that we accomplished it, but it did not end there. When we did the design for the wedding albums, we sent him a proof. He wasn’t pleased with half of the pages of the album and raised issues like how he did not want certain pictures to appear and how his sideburns (again) were not edited to his satisfaction. It left me thinking maybe it would have been better if he had contracted someone else for skin surgery before the wedding and save me the amount of time and detail required for editing. But I had concluded this is a client I was going to serve and chose to please him no matter what. We recently concluded the re-editing on his album and hope that he will be pleased this time.

I have met a lot of photographers who have faced clients who want this editing and that editing, portraiture, skin smoothing, background editing and some other editing that does not fit their style of photography. I think first of all, all the explanation of what is involved should have been done in writing before taking responsibility to be the client’s photographer and before acceptance of a photographer’s fees, because once this takes place, it means you have agreed to go the whole nine yards.

But even with all the documentation you will still encounter clients who still insist they want something more. It’s up to you to decide if you want to please your client or if you want to please yourself. Every photographer needs to address this. Personally, what I do is ask myself who pays my bills at the end of the day? And while a lot of photographers might feel differently about this there is a good chance that it might determine if they will remain in the photography business a few years from now.

Another experience I’ve had is with someone whom I hired to make a customized shoe for me. It turned out very tight when he delivered it. He explained that he’s only satisfied when he likes shoes that he’s made for clients and seeing them wearing the shoes, and that given another two months, the pair he made for me will expand.

I was like, ‘I am not comfortable in them, and I am the one paying for the shoes so I should care less whether you like the shoes or not. I should be satisfied because I am the client.’

Ultimately it is when the client is satisfied (I believe), that you get more referrals. Eventually I convinced him to take the shoes back since I was not satisfied, even though he tried to persuade me that they were ok.

That is something I try not to do with my clients. Many times when I take their pictures and they’re asking me which one they should select, most times I let them make that choice, as they will have those pictures in their homes for the rest of their lives. The ones I suggest anyway are usually not chosen. I could say,’ I like this picture where you are smiling’ and they would be like, ”No! my teeth are too out in the open. I would rather have you frame this one where I am not smiling….” Even though I don’t like it, my head is thinking, who pays for my overhead at the end of the day?

This should be addressed. I have met  many photographers who complain about their clients and they were never forced to take the clients on anyway. But once payment is received, it is binding, legal and almost like a vow, to have to satisfy the client.

This is my opinion, the more satisfied clients you have, the more likely you are going to be in business for a while to come. Interestingly the more difficult the client is and you strive to make sure he is satisfied, the more referrals you are likely going to get from such a person.

So a client might be asking for things that are seemingly unachievable, if it comes with additional cost, explain it to them and if they are insisting that they will not pay extra, still do it! Go out of your way to do a job that they will be pleased with at the end.

Client satisfaction or personal satisfaction? You may have to create a balance between the two. But ultimately if the client is satisfied, in the long run you too will be satisfied.

One other terrible experience that comes to mind happened when I did a job for a client who was a commissioner in Abuja [Nigeria]. When I met her to collect the payment for services I rendered, she actually threw the money (about $1,000 cash) at me, asking to take the money and get out of her presence. Apparently she was upset prior to my meeting her and she’d  had an argument with her personal assistant. That would normally make some of us angry, and feel undignified but it is in scenarios like this we need to act maturely. I tried to be patient and counted the money to be sure it was complete, and thanked her before leaving.

Try to be patient with your clients, make them satisfied and ultimately your business will be grateful [to you]  for it.

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PICTURE THIS (Episode 7): The Importance of Insuring Your Equipment


In this episode, Seun Akisanmi shares his experience during one of the days of the protest in Ojota, Lagos. He stresses the importance of insuring your photography equipment.


Today I will be sharing my experience on one of the days of the just ended protest in Lagos State, Nigeria over the removal of fuel subsidy.
It all started on the second day of the protest at the Gani Fawenhinmi Park, Ojota. After taking my pictures. I boarded an ‘okada’ (a motorbike transport) on my way back to the office.
Behold, the bike rider tried to navigate a junction at high speed and skidded, and in what looked like a scene from Mission Impossible 5, we had a terrible accident. It was fatal. [While] I was injured a bit on my hands and side; the rider had ten times my injuries.
My cameras did not survive however. It was really-really sad, as my most expensive lens valued at $1,100.00 got broken in two. Also, by looking at the extent of damage to one of the camera bodies that was with me, you can get an idea of how fatal the accident was. I didn’t want to share this earlier because I wanted to use the lessons learnt for this episode [of Picture This].
If you are a photographer based here in Nigeria, especially Lagos, by now you should have an idea of how dangerous a lot of these motorbikes are. So my first [piece of] advice is this: The bike rider must have on a helmet and an extra helmet for you [the passenger]. This indicates to a large extent, whether the rider is less risk than one who does not have. My first mistake was that I boarded the bike of a rider who did not have a helmet – a dangerous freak!
Secondly, even if he has a helmet and he is going very fast, do all you can (it’s even ok to hit the side of his head) and shout to warn him. Make sure you don’t keep quiet. Voice out so you don’t suffer for nothing. Otherwise if at the end of the day something happens, all you will be getting is “sorry! Forgive me” and all that. No monetary reward comes with the emotional [and physical] tragedy.
Thirdly, (and by my opinion the most important) advice is this: For any equipment you have acquired, whether it’s the camera you have bought through amazon.com (like I recommend) or it’s your laptop that is related to your photography business; I strongly suggest YOU INSURE IT! I had procrastinated, because even my insurer called me just last December asking, ‘When are you going to pay premium on all your equipment that we have valued for you?’ I’d told them, I’m trying to get more cameras in January so that I can pay the entire premium at once. And here I am [in January] I have had the accident and while this [lens for instance] cost $1,100.00, I would have paid just about 5% of the value as premium.
If [only] I had protected my equipment with just 5% of it’s value (and it covers accident, fire and theft) in one of these new packages insurance companies are beginning to offer even photographers here in Nigeria, I wouldn’t be crying like I am know.
Of course I am grateful for being alive. I just would have loved to add it to my testimony. This [lens] was my baby. So, for any camera, even an expensive phone or any equipment that has to do with your business that you have invested over $400.00 (calculating it’s total value); 5% cannot be too much to insure it. So don’t procrastinate. Any major insurance company will offer you insurance cover for your equipment, and if you are being turned down, send me an email and I will recommend one for you. Or simply ask the insurance agent for the company covering your car or house.
I hope all these three lessons will be of help to you.

Picture This (Episode 6): Working with a Professional Photographer & Photographer of the Week


Today’s episode is dedicated to all the new photographers that have decided one way or the other to be an intern or assistant to a present photographer they respect. There are some rules I feel we all need to be aware of, so that none of us are in default of things we don’t know about.

First of all, if you have decided to become an apprentice, you should consider spending a minimum of three to six months. This should be enough time to learn the basics and hopefully give you a good foundation for your own photography business.

Once you have chosen who you want to work with, you should meet with the person and discuss all the possible rules that the photographer has. Some rules may seem funny but don’t blame them. It’s because of their experiences that they have set certain standards and rules that have worked for them.

For example, at eloPhotos we don’t have any public holidays. For some apprentices we have worked with in times past this really hurt them as they felt like, ‘Christmas day? Shouldn’t I be with my family?’ I feel it’s ok that for celebrating Christmas, we choose another day because we get jobs on Christmas day, like family portraits, weddings and so on that we have to cover and I can’t tell clients, who are ready to pay, ‘sorry, I don’t work on new year’s day!’

There are some other funny rules; like certain photographers will tell intending apprentices that without the apprentice having a camera, they can’t work with them. I don’t blame them either as previous apprentices they have worked with have destroyed their cameras.
Know all the rules and follow them to the letter.

Secondly, be conscious about how you talk about your new mentor. Know this upfront, there is no photographer or person that is perfect. A lot of us have flaws we are dealing with. You might have a professional photographer that’s temperamental. Be conscious of not discussing the weakness of your new boss with others. This is like sowing seeds for when you become the boss of your own business and you have apprentices under you. If there are issues you need to address with your boss, talk to him/her and not to outsiders.

Thirdly, (and this is one of the most important) if you are on a photography assignment, with or for your boss, all the rights for the pictures you have taken belong to that professional photographer even though you took them with your own camera. So even though this might seem difficult, (and you might be planning to use pictures you take for your own marketing purposes), all the pictures belong to him (I.e. Your boss) especially when he/she is paying you for it.

Many photographers have experienced this kind of scenario where the assistant uploaded the pictures from an assignment to their own personal website the day after the assignment. That’s why they (the professional photographers) won’t call on some assistants anymore.

Here’s my personal example: It was at a Christmas carol, I covered this for a colleague of mine. I took many great pictures at the event that included guests like an ex-president -[Gen Gowon rtd] and it made me feel somewhat bad that I wouldn’t be able to use those pictures as I would love to. It was a contract, and both parties understood the rules. As painful as it felt, I gave all the pictures to my colleague as the owner [of all the rights]’

At this point, please stay tuned for [our weekly segment] the photographer of the week [Samuel Ijiyokunola – Living moments photography]

Excerpts from youtube video

‘I used to work with an NGO with a focus on HIV/AIDS –treatment and education.’I enjoyed my job. When on field programmes, I took the pictures for our reports. When it was time to move on, I did. I knew I wasn’t going to pick up another paid job. Rather, I was determined to earn a living from my passion. I decided for photography and although the knowledge I had about it then could not give me the confidence to charge fees in hundreds of thousands for covering your wedding or for family portraits.

I knew I needed training. So I was asking around for where I could train. While in church, [Daystar Christian Centre] on a Sunday I picked up the church bulletin where a Skill Acquisition Programme was being announced. I put in my application and was among the chosen few.
It was at this training I met great minds like Siffre Abayomi, Damilola Elliot, Sola Animashaun, Segun Adebiyi, the effervescent Leke Adenuga, Ephraim Makati and my coach Seun Akisanmi. All of them were saying the same thing: ‘I am a professional photographer.’
I said to myself, ‘Sammy, you didn’t make the wrong choice!’

After the two-week training, I opted in for additional training and luckily I won the scholarship to the apprenticeship programme with eloPhotos. It was a wow experience.

Here’s to the trainees in eloPhotos presently: ‘Your boss, my coach [Mr Seun] is a Very Good-Badt Guy!’ He told me and some of my colleagues few days after we resumed the apprenticeship to pick our choice of camera [from his arsenal] and practice all we wanted because there was a wedding event that very weekend that we were going to cover.

That wedding was my first baptism. While I was trying to get an aerial shot of the groom’s entrance into the ceremony, I mis-stepped and my trouser pants ripped. Mr Seun asked to me keep going on, and so for the next three hours or so I continued covering the wedding, because at a point I didn’t even remember I had a tear in my trouser!

From then on, I kept enjoying it more and more as my knowledge in photography grew, sealing the fact that this was where I belonged. I had learnt a whole lot after the 6-month apprenticeship

He [Mr Seun] being someone who lets it all out without hiding [knowledge], guided me and my colleagues on starting out, and under his tutelage I founded Living Memories Photography where I am now the lead photographer.

“It’s been good, it’s been gracious and it’s also been ugly” I had a time once when I woke up thinking, ‘Sammy, aren’t you going to get a supporting career?’ But it’s at times like that I resolved and put my feet down! So I went out and while at a shopping complex that day, I decided, I wanted to have an exhibition!

So I told Mr Seun about it and he said, go ahead and plan for it! I didn’t have the money and even a camera as I didn’t own but rented cameras also from Mr Seun. I didn’t have prints ready to hold the exhibition with! Somehow, I got events where I got the pictures I used for the exhibition and it was just about the [penultimate] day or two before the exhibition that the money for it came.

It [photography] has been a learning curve. I learn from every job and event. A few days back a family had a joint party for the three girls (cousins) who shared the same birthday, different ages five, four and three years old.
Trying to get them all smiling and in the same shot seemed impossible, as per time it would be two smiling and the third doing something else entirely (like crying or frowning). One parent wasn’t helping by scolding them so I asked to be left alone and decided to try and take their pictures individually.

I had to do something; I started reciting rhymes and poems for them, and things that would interest kids. That was the first time I had to deal with three kids at the same time and somehow I learnt new tricks [that worked]. That’s how it has been for me.

I have a learnt a lot about how to relate with people.
Every day, I learn something new about photography, the business, packaging, pricing, negotiation, camera use, editing, and album design and so on. I read blogs and books, and watch videos and so on.
So all in all, it’s been fun!